Managing a loved one’s affairs when they die is never easy. Probate is one of the many things that you’ll have to deal with.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the whole process of managing the estate of a deceased person. This includes arranging and distributing their wealth, assets and property as inheritance-after paying any taxes and debts.

If the deceased person has left a Will, it is going to name someone they want to manage their estate. That person is known as the Will’s Executor.

When someone dies possessing significant assets, a formal’ grant’ must be obtained from a court to allow collection and distribution of their estate between their beneficiaries.

Probate’ is used to describe the Grant of Probate as well as the procedure involved in getting it.

Do I need probate?

There are circumstances where a grant is not needed. For example, where the estate is less than £ 5,000, which contains only cash funds held in deposit accounts, you would not necessarily need to get a grant to get the money. But where the estate contains other properties, such as land or bonds, you’ll still need to get a grant.

What Is A Grant of Probate?

The executor must apply for a Grant of Probate before they start, a legal document which gives them the authority to deal with the property of the deceased.

Once all taxes and loans have been paid and all property passed on, the probate stops.

This guide is here to assist you through the probate process. We’re going to explain how the process works, how long it takes and how much it costs.

How Does the Probate Process Work?

Each estate is different, and each Will be different as well. Depending on the directions given in the Will and on the assets, creditors, and beneficiaries the estate has, the exact probate process will differ.

The basic process for an executor is:

  • Gather the full details of the estate’s assets and debts
  • Apply for Grant of Probate (permission to administer the estate and pass out inheritance)
  • Complete an inheritance tax return and pay any tax due
  • You receive a Grant of Probate
  • Repay any of the deceased’s outstanding debts
  • Distribute the rest of the estate according to the instructions left in the Will.

The Probate Process explained in more detail

The Probate process also involves a lot of complicated legal, tax, and financial work that can be divided into five stages.

Probate Phase 1. Identifying all the properties (property, savings and possessions) of the deceased and all their liabilities (debts ranging from loans to utility bills) to determine the value of their property.

At the same time, confirming rights to the Property under the terms of the Will of the Deceased, or in accordance with the laws of Intestacy if they died without a Will, and obtaining the necessary documents of recognition for those beneficiaries.

Probate Phase 2. Paying Inheritance Tax to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), where appropriate, and submitting the correct Inheritance Tax Return (required whether tax is due or not), and applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Representation, being a document establishing the legal authority to administer the Estate.

Probate Phase 3. After the Grant of Representation has been given by the Probate Registry, the liquidation (sale) of the properties of the deceased, settlement of their liabilities, payment of the final costs of the property administration and accounting to HMRC for any further Inheritance Tax, any Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax owed to or from the Estate.

Probate Phase 4. Preparing Estate accounts tracking all payments in and out of the Estate, and showing the balance left to the beneficiaries for distribution. For approval, give the Estate accounts to the Personal Representatives (including the Will Executor).

Probate Phase 5. In so far as there are no obstacles to the Estate or other complicating factors preventing distribution at this point, the final phase would include the transfer of any properties that the beneficiaries wish to retain and the distribution of the Estate Funds balance.

Probate can also be complicated if there are any disputes between the executor, beneficiaries, creditors, or HMRC.

Our solicitors can advise on or help with any stage of the probate process. We can help if disputes are stopping you from making progress or can even take over your duties as executor entirely.

For a free, private initial discussion with one of our solicitors, call 01273 385833 or send us an email.

How Long Does Probate take?

For most properties, the Probate process will take around a year. The precise amount of time depends on the size of the estate and its scope.

International probate may be more difficult and will usually take six months to two years.

Disputes between the executor, beneficiaries, creditors, or tax authorities may often occur during the probate. Such disputes can delay the administration of the estate.

Our disputes team can help you resolve any issues you’re facing, contact our team today to talk your situation through with an expert. Call 01273 385833 or send us an email and we’ll call you back.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

To each of our customers we provide a highly personalised service. The cost will depend on how much research you will want us to do.

When you talk to one of our employees, we are going to:

  • Judge how much work is involved based on your requirements and the size of the estate
  • Give you an estimate for our fees before starting any work
  • Always try and quote a fixed-fee cost, if possible, for your peace of mind.

If you’d like to discuss your situation, call us on 01273 385833.

Who Can Apply for Probate?

Only the executor named in the Will of the deceased will apply for a probate for the administration of their estate.

If you’ve been appointed an executor but you don’t want to manage the estate yourself, we will apply on your behalf for a probate.

If someone dies without a Will, it’s said they are intestate. The rules of intestacy would specify who can apply instead to manage the estate.

To find out what you can do if a loved one has no Will, read the information below.

Can You Get Probate If There Is No Will?

Unless there is a Will, you cannot get a Grant of Probate, but you can still manage the estate and transfer the inheritance through a slightly different process.

The rules of intestacy set out who could apply with a Grant of Administration to administer the estate. The trustee distributes inheritance according to the laws of intestacy, without a Will determining how to transfer the properties on. Under those laws, only parents, civil partners, kids and other close relatives will inherit.

Visit our page on intestacy rules and estate administration to find out more. You can also give us a call on 01273 385833 and we can advise on how we could help.

Can I Challenge Someone’s Will?

You may be able to challenge or appeal a Will if you think it does not accurately represent the wishes of the deceased for their estate, or because, for other reasons, you feel it is invalid.

You can contest a will if:

  • The Will has been forged
  • The deceased had reduced mental capacity when writing their Will
  • The deceased was under undue influence when writing their Will
  • You were financially dependent on the deceased and the Will doesn’t provide for you (as required by the Inheritance Act).

Can A Will Be Changed After Death?

You can change a valid Will, but you can only modify the share of the inheritance it has granted you. For example, you could:

  • Give specific assets to different people instead
  • Give away your whole entitlement
  • Reduce inheritance tax
  • Use your inheritance to set up a trust for your family.

To do this, you will need to apply for a document called a variation deed, or a family arrangement deed.

Changing a will after someone dies can be a tricky process. Contact our probate solicitors on 01273 385833 if you need advice and we can guide you through the process.

What Rights Does A Beneficiary Have?

A beneficiary is everyone from an estate who is entitled to obtain an inheritance.

If you are a beneficiary of a Will, you will have certain beneficiary rights to which the estate executor will adhere.

If the deceased left a valid Will, the names of the beneficiaries of their estate will appear in the Will. In the absence of a legitimate Will, the beneficiaries will be chosen according to the laws of intestacy.

During the probate process, the beneficiaries have the right to information. It is the duty of the executor to keep the beneficiaries up to date on how the administration of the estate is going. They must hold the estate accounts and display them to recipients when necessary.

Beneficiaries can take legal action against an executor if they violate these rights or if the executor mismanages the estate otherwise.

To learn more about how our specialist probate solicitors can help you with estate administration and other related issues, call us on 01273 385833 or contact us online and we’ll ring you back.